Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Director:  Martin Scorsese
Producers: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Writer: Terence Winter
Based on The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Rating: 18

Greed and lust. There’s the plot in two words. Want some more words? Lies, drugs, sex, swearing, and of course, money. This is the terrifyingly true story of the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, a man in the late 80’s went from conning the working-class to opening Stratton Oakmont, where his illegal dealings went mass market. Belfort is a hedonist; snorting coke, popping Qualuudes, and sleeping his way through New York. But his biggest addiction lies at the heart of the film: money.

The Wolf of Wall Street is mesmerising and unyielding. You are sucked into an incomprehensible world, where there’s a hooker every day and throwing dwarves is a reasonable thing to do. And that’s just in the office. It’s sleazy, it’s immoral, but you can’t tear your eyes away.

A mixture of hilarity, vulgarity, and violence; it engaged every emotion from laugh-out-loud laughter, to jaw-dropping surprise, to pure horror. At three hours long, the film was pushing it, but considering the amount of excess lavished in the film, what are minutes alongside everything else?

Credit where credit’s due (which is something the stockbrokers did not say), the film is genuinely funny. DiCaprio has once again proved himself by playing a despicable character, and his versatility is shown as he slips from smooth salesman to drugged-up crack-head. Belford is utterly unlikeable, yet completely watchable. He has no morals, no guilt, which is important because as much as we enjoy watching him, we never empathise with him.

Whilst watching, we’re all Jordan Belfort. The film is like one of his Qualuudes dropped in water, fizzing and ready to explode as we start to swig it in. It takes us on a high; we’re drawn into a dysmorphic world that is nothing is like the reality we live in, and we can’t get enough of it. But the crash is hard and painful, and only on exiting the cinema do the thoughts creep in. Why are we so obsessed with greed? Why were no victims shown? And is it okay that Belford is profiting with his new-found celebrity?

Overall: Decadent and disgraceful, no matter how much you want to, you won't be able to take your eyes of the screen.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Love or Loathe: Love Triangles

I’m currently reading Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Currently is the operative word here, I haven’t got to the end yet, so no spoilers please! For those who haven’t read the series, The Infernal Devices features the Marmite of plot devices: the love triangle. The reason I’m bringing it up is previously to reading this series I had sworn off them, however I now have some conflicted emotions.

Love triangles are a pretty old, dating back to Romeo and Juliette, but you can say that of many plot devices, so what is it particularly about love triangles which instigate such strong feelings in people? Looking at YA in particular there have been two huge successes in the past decade: Twilight and The Hunger Games. And guess what they both have in common?

Authors and publishers latched onto this common denominator, and soon they had spread. Love triangles were the hottest new thing, and soon they were going out of style. They became overdone, clich├ęd. I thought there was only so much you could do with it. Two boys like a girl, she has to choose. That was it in essence. But I was wrong. You can boil down any plot like that. Going on a quest. Falling in love. Uncovering a secret.

Like anything, a story needs to be done well. And the problem is that there are too many bad love triangles out there, diluting the amount of good. But there is hope. Now and then you get a story so good, so un-put-down-able that you shouldn’t feel ashamed to find yourself going “I quite like this”. Not that you should feel ashamed, as I have long said in my battle against intellectual snobbery. So here is what I think makes a good love triangle:

  • A strong lead – Otherwise I really won’t care. Preferably a not pathetic female who spends every single waking minute agonising over the triangle.
  • Believable choices – So many times you can predict who the character is going to choose. If that’s the case, what’s the point of having the point? I would not like to predict the end of the story in the first few chapters.
  • Likeable characters – I want to be conflicted over which person I like more. I don’t want to be disappointed by either choice. 
  • More than romance – Okay, even if it a romance book, there has to be something more to the characters or their lives than their love life. It’s far more believable.
  • Unpredictable – They have a bad rep for being formulaic, so give me something more. I want twists and turns, bad guys and good guys, and lots of feelings.
What do you guys think of love triangles? Love them? Loathe them? Do you think I missed anything out of my list? Tell me below!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Top Books of 2013

OK, yes this post is really late. 2013 was like, so last week. But better late than never, right? So in no particular order, I bring you Rachael’s top books of 2013.

Middle Grade
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente
When I was a kid, one of the books I would constantly read over and over again was Alice in Wonderland, and honestly, I thought nothing could come close to the wonder I felt reading a land like that. I was wrong. TGWCFiaSoHOM, on top of being a mouthful, captures the wonder of being a child, wrapped in layers of a fantastical, detailed world with a cuckoo-crazy plot.

Wonder by RJ Palacio
For a book so slim, it’s crazy the amount of emotions I went through reading it. Auggie’s story of him coping with his disfigurement  is a sad one, yet ultimately uplifting, and laced with a slick sense of humour.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Do I really need to say anything about this book? If you haven’t read this book, go pick it up now! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will still resonate with you a year after you read it.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve never thought of myself as a romance fan, so it just shows how much I loved Eleanor and Park. The characters were so alive, and their story real and painful, that I couldn’t help but falling in love with this book.

15745753The Fault in Our Stars

A Song of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin
Okay, technically this isn’t a book, but a series. Even if you haven’t seen the TV show, this book is worth a read. With a plot that teeters the line of a war drama and a soap opera, set in one of the most detailed lands I’ve ever read, these books keep you sucked in through their lengthy volumes.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I always bang on about how much I hate predictability in books, and Gone Girl is anything but. The twists and turns in the insane story about Nick and his missing wife, not to mention the crazy, and yet terrifyingly believable, characters kept me turning the pages.

Agree? Disagree? Have links to your own top books? Tell me down below!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Updates and YA mini-reviews

You may have noticed that I have been absent from the internet recently. You may have not. If so, I’m not offended. So where have I been? University! Wooo!

I have been having a fantastic time. Such a fantastic time, that I now have no time. Between the 22 hours of contact time, the lab reports and coursework (this is what you get for choosing science), friends and extra-curriculars, I’m finding it to keep up, and I’ve just been lazy when it’s come to updating this blog and my Youtube channel. But with New Year’s around the corner, I am now determined to a better job of keeping up this blog and (hopefully) my Youtube channel. I say hopefully for Youtube because the walls in my halls of residence are so thin! So if anyone has some advice for me please let me know below.

I have also been a lazy reader. In the 3 months I was at university, I read three books one of which was on the train to and from London. To say I’ve been in a reading slump is to put it mildly. Luckily, the Christmas holidays have snapped me out of it, and I am on a roll.

So here’s the first part of my mini-reviews of what I’ve read.

Geek Girl and Geek Girl (Model Misfit) by Holly Smale
Geek Girl (Geek Girl, #1)Model Misfit (Geek Girl #2)Geek Girl has been floating around the blogging circuit for a while and I now know why, it’s amazing! It’s funny and quirky (and not in a look-at-me-I’m-so-hipster kind of way). Harriet Manners is a geek (as you may guess from the title) and somehow ends up as a model, which of course is followed by several mishaps. I loved Harriet, especially once you peel off all the layers of facts and knowledge she was a normal, teenage girl. Geek Girl doesn’t take itself too seriously, but has a lot of heart.
I received Model Misfit from NetGalley 
Rating: 9/10

Heist Society by Ally Carter 
Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)Heist Society had an interesting concept, as we follow Kat, a retired teenage thief whose father has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit. As much as I found the plot interesting, I felt like there wasn’t much to the characters. Kat was emotionless and lacked much of a personality, and I found it hard to connect to her. Even the plot, though fast paced and clever in places, required too much suspension of belief for me to take it seriously. It was fun to read, but ultimately left me feeling let down.
 Rating: 6/10

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare 
You may have noticed that I may be a tiney-winey (ok, massive) fan of The Mortal Instruments. So shockingly, I had not read the spin-offs. The reason for wanting to avoid them is that I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction. Eventually I gave in and picked them up. I wanted to love it. Really, I did. And I did. Sort of. I really enjoyed the steampunk Victorian setting and the fast paced plot complete with a slippery villain. I loved all the characters, from book-loving Tess, to calm Jem, to strong Charlotte. The only problem I have is that I’m getting sick of love triangles. But I have high hopes for the rest of the series!
 Rating: 9/10

I have a lot of things coming up for this blog and I will get back into the swing of things, so stick around!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Borrowed Time (2013)

Director: Jules Bishop
Writer: Jules Bishop
Starring: Philip Davis, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Juliet Oldfield 
Rating: 15

It’s times like this that I am grateful for Kickstarter. Just wow. Borrowed Time is a British independent film that features the writing and directing debut of Jules Bishop and tackles some of the social issues faced in Britain in a funny, upbeat, and gritty way. If you a British teenager, please go see this, you won’t regret it. It’s the film equivalent of a UKYA book. 

The story takes place in East London, and follows Kevin (Theo Barklem-Biggs), a guy who just wants to get his mother’s clock back for his sister after he pawned it away. Unfortunately, to get hold of the money to buy back the clock, he gets involved with “Ninja” Nigel (Warren Brown), and ends up owing him money. This leads him to cross paths with pensioner Phillip (Phil Davies) and an unlikely bond is formed. 

This is British film as it should be. Never afraid to tackle issues and it does it in an intelligent and witty way. And in a time where both youth and elderly are demonized by the rest of society, there couldn’t be a better time for it. This was writer and director Jules Bishop’s debut, and his vision was seen throughout. I attended a Q+A for the film, and he came from a similar background to the film, which could be seen through the honesty and social realism that he painted. It’s also very hard to describe how funny the film was, because it was funny in the way real life can be funny. It’s like those little moments you share with your mates, except it’s on the big screen.

There were some very strong characters seen through the film, whether it be nutty Ninja Nigel, or bitter Phillip, to shy, understated Kevin, and every part was well acted. The speech was very natural and clever, which I found impressive as I feel that usually young people’s speech can go awry in films. Phil Davies and Theo Barklem-Biggs was a strange pair, but they made it work. Most importantly, they channelled these very real issues affecting their characters and the prejudices each have towards each other.

On a small note, I also really loved the little motifs that cropped up. Time in the title, and time in the nature. The clock references were a constant reminder of the coming of age for Kevin, and the passing of time for Phillip. The film was also shot on 16mm film and not on digital, which basically meant that it had the grainy, traditional quality to a film. This added to the “rough-around-the-edges” feel it had.

In a time where “urban” films are dark and violent, it was refreshing to find one upbeat but never drawing away from the seriousness of the issues it tackled. For me, Borrowed Time addressed the real truth of London life, it’s dark and dangerous, but it’s still life, so it’s also sweet and fun. And it’s that range of emotions which ultimately captured my love. I can’t wait to see what Jules Bishop does next.

Overall: A clever, witty take on urban youth in London, and I thought it was simply fantastic.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

16058610Age Group: Adult (but it could be a YA read too)
Genre: Historical
Pub Date: July 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
I’ve previously said how I’m not too keen on historical fiction. And every time I say that, I find a book that makes me change my mind. Whistling Past the Graveyard is a thought-provoking, emotional, witty novel set in the American Deep South in 1963.

Yes this book is about racism in 1960’s America. But it is also a coming-of-age story, about family and friendship. It also contains one of the most interesting POV’s in the genre, Starla, a nine-year-old, white girl. Being written from a child’s point of view, you may think that the writing would be too simplistic to enjoy, but Starla was full of personality. Her innocent view on the world was fascinating to see, and the comparisons to how she lived and the way the African-American’s did really highlighted the truth of the situation.  

The story follows Starla, who lives in Mississippi with her grandmother. Starla is fed up with her grandmother and wants to run away to Nashville to live with her mother. So she does exactly that. On her way she has a run in with Eula, a black lady who stole a white baby. And so they continue on their road trip together.

The characters were wonderful. Each had very strong, evocative voices. Starla was fiery and sassy, always questioning and never afraid. Eula perfectly contrasted with Starla, calm and stable, and was able to care for her in a way Starla never had before. Also, her background story was heart-breaking. But most important was the relationship that developed between them. Eula and Starla needed each other. Each had their lessons to teach to the other, and the transformation that happened was due to each other. At the heart of it, Whistling Past the Graveyard was about how friendship transcends the colour of skin and age.

Whistling Past the Graveyard had me on the edge of my seat. At some points it was so intense that I had to put the book down and think about what I had just read. There were so many strong messages in the book, but it was never in a preachy way. But I wouldn’t call it a dark novel. At some points it was funny, witty, and plain entertaining. It was the balance between grittiness and fun which made it so hard-hitting and memorable.

Overall: Even if you don’t like historical novels, I would recommend this to you. Whistling Past the Graveyard will make you think about life and race, and more incredibly it’ll come from the believable perspective of a nine-year old.

I received this book from Gallery Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 10/10                                                    

Buy on Book Depository!